Did you know that 17% of food produced globally is wasted each year, according to a new report by the United Nation. Of these, 61% are in households. Every Canadian, on average, throws away 170kg of food each year, that equals to 1 lb of food every day! Not only does the waste have an economic costs, it also creates tonnes of greenhouse gas emission, as most of the food ends up in landfills.
One of the things we can do as consumers is to have a better understanding around expiry dates or best before dates, so we don't end up throwing things out just because the package says so.
Expiry Dates vs Best Before Dates
An expiry date is not the same as a best-before date. Expiration dates are required only on certain foods that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications which might not be met after the expiration date. For example infant formula or meal replacements.
These food should not be bought, sold or eaten if the expiration date has passed. It should be discarded.
Best-before date on the other hand is not an indicator of food safety, neither before nor after the date. A "best-before" date, also known as a durable life date, tells you when the durable life period of a prepackaged food ends. It indicates to consumers that if the product has been properly handled (stored correctly), the unopened product should be of high quality until the specified date. It can be used interchangeably with "use by" date.
It is illegal to sell food that has passed its expiry date, but not the best-before date, although food that are close to best-before dates are almost always heavily discounted in the grocery stores. Time for a bargain if you are the savvy shopper who can make an informed buying decision.
Food That Almost Never Expires
Some food, if stored correct, they will last forever (or almost forever). You can also keep some of these in your pantry as emergency food supplies. The list below is by no means exhaustive.
Honey is a natural antibiotic that contains very low moisture content and high acidity, both of which prevent the growth of microorganisms. Store in a cool, dry area and keep the lid on tight, honey can truly last forever.
2. Maple Syrup
If stored properly, maple syrup can last for a long time. Its high sugar content creates an environment that prevents bacteria from growing. Keeping it refrigerated after opening can help extend its shelf life.
3. Corn Syrup
Similar to maple syrup, the high sugar content in corn syrup makes it resistant to bacteria growth. Keeping it stored in a cool, dry place with the lid on tight can help keep it fresh for longer.
Salt is a natural preservative, and when kept dry, it will not support bacterial growth. Iodised salt has a longer shelf life than non-iodised salt due to the iodine content.
Sugar also has a high sugar content that prevents bacterial growth, and when stored properly in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, it can last indefinitely.
6. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is made through fermentation, which creates an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Unopened soy sauce bottles never expire, and once opened, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a long time.
7. Baking Soda
Baking soda is a mineral that is stable and does not react with other substances unless moisture is present, which is why it should be kept in an airtight container.
8. Dried Beans
Dried beans have a low moisture content, and as a result, they don't spoil easily. When stored properly in a cool, dry place, they can last indefinitely.
White, arborio, wild, basmati, and jasmine rice all have low moisture content, making it difficult for bacteria to grow. When kept dry and free from contaminants, rice can last indefinitely.
10. Instant Coffee
When coffee is vacuum freeze-dried, it removes all the moisture, which inhibits bacterial growth. When stored in a dry, airtight container, it can last indefinitely.
In this blog post, we explored the problem of food waste and its impact on the environment. One solution to reduce food waste is to have a better understanding of expiry and best-before dates. Additionally, some types of food can last almost forever when stored correctly, providing an emergency food supply. From honey and maple syrup to rice and instant coffee, here are ten foods that almost never expire. Knowing about these long-lasting pantry staples can not only help to reduce food waste but also help you save money in the long run.
Sources: Canadian Food Inspection Agency - Food Label Requirement